Archive for January 30th, 2012

January 30, 2012

how long is an hour if “a second is a hiccup”?

I am not proud of this: But whenever my son asks “how long is that, I’m never quite sure how to answer. As in, I tell him there’s an hour before bedtime and he asks “how long is an hour?” Or I tell him that we need to wait 15 minutes for something and he asks “how long is 15 minutes”? So everytime, even though I hate doing it and even though I know it is not at all helpful to him, I give him a television comparison. 15 minutes is the same as one Dinosaur Train. 30 minutes is two Dinosaur Trains or half a Sesame Street. And hour is a Sesame Street. Of course, this doesn’t help at all because he has no sense of how long these things are. It’s also unhelpful because the relative nature of time is hard to explain to a three year old. Even if he had some idea of how long Dinosaur Train lasted, those 15 minutes surely go by faster than 15 minutes at the dentist. Once or twice, I’ve opened my mouth to try to explain that, but then I bite my tongue. I often find myself having to remember that he’s only three.

So I was really excited to see this book! It explains the concept of time in a way kids can understand. And while he still likely has no idea how long an hour, month, or year is, this book has given us some kind of common language with which to talk about it and visualize it.

Title: A second is a hiccup
Author: Hazel Hutchins
Age: 3 and up
: Picture Book, Nonfiction, but in a fun, fiction-y sort of way

Some things you could do with this book that would be really fun: get near a clock that ticks loudly if you have one. If you don’t, you could sit by a large clock with an easy-to-read second hand, but the ticking noise would probably be easier for a child. Then practice counting seconds: you could count to five, every time the hand moves. Or you could follow the script of the book and make a hiccup sound for every tick. Or even more fun: give mom a kiss every second! I’m sure you can think of lots more ways to practice noticing the seconds tick by!

What about a minute? The book suggests a minute might be “one small song / Chorus, verses, not too long”. So why not try it? Sing a few songs with your little one and a stop watch? Or while watching the second hand go around? Or if you are getting to that point in the day when you really want the kids to get some exercise, how about another one of the book’s ideas–60 hops to make a minute?

What about you? Any ideas to teach time to the little one? Or are you waiting so that on those days when you are tired, you can put them to bed at 6:30 instead of 7:30 and hope they don’t notice the difference? 🙂

January 30, 2012

what if you had to die again and again? and again…

I don’t really have a good parenting story for this book because I have toddler boys instead of teenage girls (says a small prayer of thanks). Toddler boys have their issues, but high school popularity contests, alcohol, sex, and suicide are not among them. I realize that’s a lot of weighty issues, but don’t let them turn you away from this book. Its’s weighty, but not in a preachy way. And not in an over-the-top way. Just in a very real, very honest way. It’s a very good story with very good writing, which at the end of the day, is a great way to spend some time.

Title: Before I fall
 Lauren Oliver
Genre: Fiction
Age: High School or Upper Middle School (but the topics are definitely high school rated)

After not really liking the first chapter (I was thinking, is anyone really THIS shallow?), I got into the book until it had such a hold on me I couldn’t put it down even though the baby has been keeping me up and I really needed to sleep. Here’s my two cents, and I think this would be a GREAT book for any teenage girl and her mom to read together. Even if you are at the point in your relationship where this main character is and you don’t talk much, just the shared reading experience would be great. As a mom (or a dad!) you would be sending the message to your daughter, that yes, you are up for topics like this, that you are willing to read about them and even talk about them, that you were a teenager once, too.

(Although please do not ask your child to read it and then give them any high-road morality lectures about alcohol or driving or sex. Trust me, the book speaks for itself. That is the beauty of it. If you have a close relationship with your kid, treasure that and talk to them about the characters, their lives, and their decisions. Let your teen lead the way with the discussion. Don’t push it.)

This book is really well-written. Told from the point of view of a popular high school girl who dies in a car crash and has to relive her last day over and over, it’s a beautiful story about life and the way we live it. It’s a great story about the lessons we learn along the way, by one girl who learned those lessons way too late. I was a little worried it was going to be too predictable–she starts out so shallow and obviously she is going to learn, change. But it wasn’t like that at all. For one, she learns lessons in a really honest, believable way. For two, what seems so shallow at first is explained so well in later chapters that depth is added to her character and she becomes so alive. Which is only somewhat ironic, given that she’s dead.

I think teenage girls would really relate to this book, even if they’ve never stepped into the popular circle or touched a cup of beer to their lips. This book is about growing up. It’s about finding out what’s important. It’s about the changes we make on purpose and the ones we don’t realize we’ve made until they are already a part of us. It really makes you think about how you live your life. In a good way.

From a parent perspective, here are two of my favorite observations, which you could talk about (or not) with your kids:

For page references purposes, I had a library-bound hardcover.

Page 225: It’s the weirdest thing. I’m popular–really popular–but I don’t have that many friends. What’s even weirder is that it’s the first time I’ve noticed.

Page 194: Here’s one of the things I learned that morning: if you cross a line and nothing happens, the line loses meaning. It’s like that old riddle about a tree falling in a forest and whether it makes a sound if there’s no one around to hear it. / You keep drawing a line farther and farther away, crossing it every time. That’s how people end up stepping off the edge of the earth. You’d be surprised at how easy it is to bust out of orbit, to spin out to a place where no one can touch you.

That second passage is a really good reminder for parents. It can be so hard to draw that line–and once drawn, to keep its meaning. When I worked as a principal, I saw so many parents struggling with it. But it’s so important, and this is why. Kids WANT that line, they crave that line, even if they could never, ever express it for themselves. I used to tell parents that, and they wouldn’t always believe me.

I remember hearing an NPR interview a long time ago with a woman who had once worked as a dominatrix. I don’t remember what she had turned herself into that landed her later on NPR, as that was likely less interesting. But this is exactly what she was talking about. She said she never had any boundaries growing up. So she just kept pushing and pushing, looking for the walls. She tried alcohol, she tried drugs, she tried stripping, and she just kept going. Unfortunately, I never found a polite way to share that story with parents, but I wish I could have–if that didn’t make them give their kids some boundaries, I don’t know what would. This book, might, though.